Sec. De Lima welcomes Presidents' stance on the possible decriminalization of libel and passage by Congress of the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Bill

18 October 2012

Secretary of Justice LEILA M. DE LIMA, who just arrived from Geneva, Switzerland after heading the Philippine Delegation that presented the country's 4th Periodic Report on the International Covenent on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) before the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC), was very pleased to hear about the stance taken by the President on the possibility of decriminalizing libel.

"The Presidents' declared receptiveness to the proposal to decriminalize libel is a very welcome development. The members of the UNHRC and the panel of international experts who evaluated the Philippines' Periodic Report on the ICCPR displayed considerable knowledge about the current issues affecting the exercise of Civil and Political RIghts in our country, and they showed very keen  interest on the issues surrounding the recent passage of the Cybercrime Law, particularly the inclusion of a provision on libel, I am quite certian that knowing that our president is, to say the least, open to considering the same, serves as a significant assurance to international human rights advocates and experts that the protection and promotion of civil and political rights in the Philippines is moving in the right direction. It may also be construed as a signal from the President to Congress to give urgent consideration of appropriate amendatory legislation to the Cybercrime Law, especially pertaining to the libel provision, amidst the 120-day TRO issued by the Supreme Court, " Secretary De Lima said.

Another welcome development, according to the Secretary of Justice, is the recent passage by both Houses of COngress of the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Bill, which seeks to define and punish the crime of enforced disappearance as a distinct criminal offence. The Bill, which hopefully will be transmitted to the Office of the President for signature soon, is potencially the first of its kind in Asia and would undoubtedly be hailed as a victory by those who have, for decades, advocated for its passage, including the families of so-called "desaparecidos" who have been missing since the Martial Law.

"By imposing the maximum penalty of reclusion perpetua, and by providing for the entitlement of victims and thier kin to compensation, restitution and rehabilitation, this law shall serve as a recognition of the injury and torment that victims and families of desaparecidos are subjected to, bearing in mind that enforeced disappearanced is undoubtedly one of the worst forms of human rights violations. We can be assured of the full support and approval from human rights advocates and experts, particularly those from the UNHRC, which has long been following-up on the progress of legislative measures such as this. The bill, of course, shall be closely studied by the President before he signs off on it, but we in the Department of Justice join the rest of our peaple in eagerly anticipating its coming into law the soonest possible time," said Secretary De lime.

The Philippine delegation shall endeavor to transmit the foregoing additional information about recent developments to the UNHRC for possible inclusion in the country report it shall publish.

Secretary De Lima also reported that members of the UNHRC and the panel of independent experts in the fiend of civil and political rights from various countries expressed positive recognition of the recently signed Framework Agreement for Peace between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which was touted as being "historic" and an important "milestnone" for peace efforts in the Philippines.


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